Wellington City Council’s decision to pay its security contractors a living wage is headed to the High Court, and ratepayers could end up paying some of the legal bills.
The Wellington Chamber of Commerce announced on Friday that it would seek a judicial review of the council’s living wage policy.
The council, which has been paying its own staff a living wage since 2013, voted 9-6 in October to require its security services contractors do the same. …
But councillors were also warned by chief executive Kevin Lavery that the move could be illegal, as the council would effectively be paying 19 per cent more than the going rate for security services without seeing any “tangible” benefit.
The council’s lawyers believed it would lose if taken to court over the issue, as the Local Government Act prohibits councils from paying more than necessary for services without any corresponding benefit.
Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said it did not take any great delight in heading to court, but the council needed to be held to account.
“We are taking these proceedings because we believe this decision is not prudent stewardship or efficient and effective use of ratepayer resources, 47 per cent of which is contributed by Wellington businesses.”
Delighted to see the Chamber doing this. The Council were told by their CEO and lawyers that what they intended to do was probably unlawful and would fail a lawful challenge. But instead they went ahead with their social engineering.
Deputy Mayor Justin Lester hit back and said the chamber was often silent when council spends hundreds of thousands on events like fireworks and the Santa Parade, yet it stomped its feet over a few extra dollars for workers.
The council has not considered whether it would take part in the judicial review as an interested party, or what the cost might be to ratepayers if it decided too, Lester said.
But any costs incurred would be as a result of having to respond to the chamber’s actions, he said. “It’s unfortunate.”
It’s unfortunate you ignored your own legal advice. Don’t complain when people go to court to try and ensure the Council acts within the law.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was a clear benefit to be had from paying staff a living wage.
“Decent pay and good performance are connected.”
They’re not staff, they’re contractors. Now the staff of the contractor will be paid one wage level when doing jobs for Wellington City Council and another level for other Councils. It’s barmy.